Following the recent mass poisoning of more than 50,000 bumblebees in Wilsonville, and other occurrences in Hillsboro and elsewhere, many people including scientists are calling for a ban on cosmetic use of insecticides on public lands. The mass poisoning is the largest event of its kind ever documented, with an estimated impact on more than 300 wild bumblebee colonies.  

According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the poisoning occurred after an insecticide was sprayed on linden trees to control aphids, which secrete a sticky residue while feeding, making them a nuisance to parked cars. The pesticide, dinotefuran (also known as Safari), belongs to a relatively new group of chemicals called neonicotinoids. Because neonicotinoids are long-lasting in plant tissues and can be found in flower nectar and pollen, and because they have been implicated in the global decline of honeybees, there have been growing concerns about their safety for pollinators.

Neonicotinoid insecticides can be purchased in most hardware stores and nurseries under various trade names. Most have no warning labels to alert consumers about the potential hazard to bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

To help prevent future bee poisonings, the Xerces Society (see is calling for changes to local regulations.

The Xerces Society recommendations include:

  • Municipalities should stop using all neonicotinoid insecticides on city- and county-owned property, including schools and parks.
  • Local governments should require that warnings be posted alongside displays of these chemicals at hardware stores and nurseries.
  • Ban the use of neonicotinoids and other insecticides for cosmetic purposes on ornamental and landscape plants.
  • I understand the city of Wilsonville has already engaged with the Xerces Society and scientists at the Oregon Department of Agriculture; however I have not seen any statement of intent that the city has plans to enact such restrictions as outlined above.

    Furthermore, has the city been in discussion with the retailer Target and its landscape service in regard to mitigation of the damage? Wrapping the trees with netting while they bloom has only a limited effect; a cursory inspection shows that the bees are still dying; and the insecticide stays in the plant tissue for an extended period and in the soil for up to six years, according to some studies.  

    We should require that Target plant additional and new pollinating plants and shrubs and take other steps as recommended by the Xerces Society.

    Simon Springall is a Wilsonville resident.

    (Editor’s note: The city responds: The spraying of the insecticide at the Target store parking lot at Argyle Square shopping center occurred on private property operated by a commercial business. The city does not use any class of neonicotinoid insecticides on city property and does not spray trees for ornamental control of aphids. The city has an integrated pest management (IPM) approach to parks and public lands maintenance that seeks to minimize the use of toxic chemicals by employing manual and least-toxic methods of pest control.

    The city does not have jurisdictional authority to “require that warnings be posted alongside displays of these chemicals at hardware stores” or to ban the use of certain chemicals.

    The city is a member of the Regional Coalition for Clean Rivers and Streams,, which is a partnership of eight public agencies in the Portland/Vancouver metropolitan area dedicated to educating the public about the impact of storm water runoff pollution on the health of our rivers and streams. The organization provides information on non-toxic methods of pest control for home, lawn and garden applications. The city can work with other agencies and organizations to educate our residents and businesses about appropriate pest control measures.)

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